The Skin Nerd: How to be kind to the ocean while safe in the sun

You may not need to place reef-safe sunscreen at the top of your SPF priority list, says Jennifer Rock
The Skin Nerd: How to be kind to the ocean while safe in the sun
Coral reefs can can be damaged by some ingredients in sun cream.

Sunscreen is a must-wear, every single day, but it becomes even more important when you’re spending time in the sun, such as when you’re out in your trunks (or even your Speedo).  

And if you’re swimming in the ocean, it’s still integral to protect your skin from UV rays . But d id you know that certain sunscreen ingredients are believed to be harmful to coral reefs?

Essentially, specific common sunscreen ingredients can cause something called coral bleaching, which is where the coral’s algae, which provides it wi th nutrition, becomes toxic, and dies or is expelled from the coral. This turns the coral white, hence the name coral bleaching.

The two ingredients that are quite thoroughly studied with regard to coral bleaching are octinoxate  and oxybenzone, two chemical filters that are highly effective and widely used. 

However, zinc oxide, a commonly found mineral filter, is also believed to be harmful to coral life in nano format . The sale of sunscreens containing octinoxate  and oxybenzone will be banned in both Hawaii and Key West from 2021.

Pick up your SPF, if you have it near you, and take a look . I would be willing to say the vast majority of you are now looking at one of the ingredients above on the ingredients list. 

Now – the question is – in the day to day, when you’re not going swimming, should reef-safe be your priority when it comes to SPF?

From my research, many suggest opting for reef-safe sunscreen if you will be swimming near a reef . At the moment, it ’s actually not conclusive how harmful sunscreen is compared to the thousands of other factors that cause damage to coral. 

Global warming is causing wide-scale coral bleaching, to a much greater extent than sunscree n can

In the words of Mark Eakin of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, “If we don’t deal with climate change, it won’t matter what we do about sunscreens.”

Additionally, m any were against the banning of these ingredients in Key West and Hawaii, stating that this wou l d actual ly cause more fear surrounding SPF and perhaps lead to avoidance of it, having the knock-on effect of an increase in skin cancer .

If you are concerned and find yourself swimming near coral reefs, the common ingredients that are deemed to be of little or no damage to coral include octocrylene, octisalate and titanium dioxide , as well as zinc oxide so long as it is not nano zinc oxide.

Heliocare 360 Invisible Spray (£28.99, uk & selected salons ) provides broad-spectrum SPF 50+ protection with antioxidant protection in a sand resistant, water-resistant formulation. Its main UV filter is octocrylene, and it is actually effective on wet skin too, meaning that you can top-up as soon as you come out of the water.

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 (€34, [url=]renskincare. ie[/url] & selected pharmacies) uses non-nano zinc oxide as its main filter, and as a plus, its vegan and fully recyclable.

For another non-nano zinc oxide option, check out Amazinc ! Mineral Sun Screen SPF 50 (€21.45, [url=][/url]) .

This is a nice option for those who do not mind reapplying and those with very sensitive skin and it is also packed with nourishing oils like almond oil, jojoba oil and olive oil. Another bonus: it’s also vegan and fully recyclable.

My advice would be to not lose sleep over reef-safe SPF if you’re not swimming near reefs but to do what you can to combat the greater issue of climate change.

Seavite Super Nutrient Comfort Cleanser (€25,, & selected salons)
Seavite Super Nutrient Comfort Cleanser (€25,, & selected salons)

Seavite Super Nutrient Comfort Cleanser (€25,, & selected salons) uses the goodness of the ocean to protect and nourish our skin with organic seaweed extracts and marine minerals, plus potent antioxidants. 

This gorgeous lotion helps to remove traces of makeup without taking away from the skin, so your skin feels balanced, bouncy and fresh.

This is ideal for dry and dehydrated skin and is also ideal for those with very sensitive skin. 

This mild lotion would great prior to your active exfoliating cleanser to prep your skin thoroughly too.

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